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Gene Twaronite Posts

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Sex Shop Sestina

I chose to write this poem in an unusual and complex French form called a sestina. You may notice that throughout the poem there are six words that occur at the end of each of the first six stanzas. And as if that isn’t difficult enough, these six words must be used in a precisely different sequence in each stanza. And to top it off, all six words have to occur in the last three-line stanza, referred to as the envoy.

So why would any poet choose to write in such a difficult form? I remember being inspired by the sestina “A Miracle for Breakfast” written by Elizabeth Bishop, one of my favorite poets. Using this form, she took an ordinary event and created a magical effect. So I took her poem as a guide, noting the placement of each of her six words, and wrote this loving remembrance of the time my dad showed me a 42nd Street that no longer exists.

42nd Street in 60s

Sex Shop Sestina

By Gene Twaronite

He brought me to the New York flower show
at the Coliseum, but another kind of flowering
awaited me in the 42nd street windows
filled with playful outré objects
to entertain every colossal desire
of an endless erotic childhood.

My dad never talked of that childhood
or what to expect. All he could do was show
me a glimpse of that world of desire
awaiting at lust’s first flowering
through the whispering objects
in the windows.

Through those stained-glass windows
I could see only dimly the childhood
I was about to enter. I can still picture one of the objects,
a hot water bottle shaped like a naked woman, a peep show
of sudden flowering
awareness of it as an instrument of desire.

I began to see these blazes of desire
everywhere, popping up like multi-colored windows
of files and programs flowering
on the backlit screen of my new childhood.
Inside was the real show
I conjured up from these objects.

That my dad, ever faithful husband, could view these objects
with the same eyes of desire
as mine was the precious magic show
he would leave me: how to look through windows
and cherish each tingle of a childhood
perpetually flowering.

For the flowering
continues long after the objects
of our human love are consummated, and a second childhood
begins. And now I see the shocking lewd books of desire
I once found hidden under his mattress as windows
into the life of the father he could not show.

Spring was in full flowering at the Coliseum, but the bloom of desire
I saw on my dad’s face as he gazed upon the objects in the windows
is the childhood memory I carry: our secret sex show.

First published in Panoply, A Literary Zine

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“Hopper’s People” Video

Hi All,

For those of you who didn’t have the chance to attend my recent reading or watch the entire video, here’s a short clip of me reading “Hopper’s People,” accompanied by images of Edward Hopper’s paintings.

This poem is part of my latest poetry collection (my fourth!) Shopping Cart Dreams, available from Kelsay Books or on my Books page. 


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How to Stuff a Rhino

A long time ago, I wrote this children’s story about a boy’s imaginary trip to Africa. It was published in my short story collection Dragon Daily News. I was recently asked my Robert Topp, of the website Read Me a Story, Ink ( if he could record the story and set it to music. You can listen to it here:

How to Stuff a Rhino by Gene Twaronite

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Shopping Cart Dreams – Live!

I am excited to announce that I’ve been invited to perform an in-person reading (my first in three years!) from my new collection Shopping Cart Dreams. This live event will be at Woods Memorial Library in Tucson (3455 N. First Ave.) on Saturday, June 25, at 2 p.m. My reading will be 40-45 minutes, then open up for questions and book signing. Copies of my new book will be available for purchase.

For those of you who live in or near Tucson, having you there would mean a great deal to me. The event will be held in a large meeting room, with ample space for social distancing. Face masks are recommended though optional. Though I plan not to wear a mask while reading up front, I will be wearing one at my book signing table, and ask that anyone approaching the table also wear one (face masks will be supplied). Covid is part of the new reality we must all live with, and I want this to be a safe healthy event for everyone. Hope to see you on the 25th! Here’s the event listing:

And for those who can’t attend, please pass along this info to anyone you think might be interested. Lastly, here’s the link where you can purchase my book:

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Advance Reviews for Shopping Cart Dreams

Here are two more reviews of my newest poetry collection Shopping Cart Dreams.

“Gene’s craft is so airtight his poetry seems to effortlessly reveal the deeper truths that we thirst for, and they contain a gravity that our hearts simply cannot escape. He creates a complicated view of our existence, and we love how this fully engages our minds and hearts each time we return to the world of his words.”

—Jeff Sommerfeld and Jason Splichal, Editors, Sky Island Journal

“Gene Twaronite offers a mix of free verse, sonnets, sestinas, prose poems and ekphrastic poetry which invite us to look at life through different lenses.  His prose poem, “A Street Named Wherever,” warns about “what happens when you do things automatically” and you stop seeing what is actually around you.  Twaronite entices us with clever poems that deliver unexpected takes on our ordinary world.  In the title poem, the shopping carts, which once dreamed of useful and meaningful lives, now face a different sad dream where they end up discarded and filled with the “detritus of all they once carried.” Twaronite’s poems subtly suggest a choice ­­– we are free to see a unique world within a sidewalk crack or, facing an unhappy dreamscape, to choose a better, different dream.” 

— Barry Harris, Editor, Tipton Poetry Journal

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Shopping Cart Dreams: Available Now

I am pleased to annouce that my fourth poetry book Shopping Cart Dreams has just been published by Kelsay Books. A full-length collection offering an eclectic range of poems ranging from serious to quirky and absurd, this is my most ambitious work yet. Though mostly free verse, it includes a number of prose, ekphrastic, and found poems as well as several sonnets and a sestina. Two-thirds of the poems included here have previously appeared or been accepted for publication in literary journals. Read what one advance reviewer writes:

“In these poems on People, Places, Journeys, Choices, and Perplexities, our senses awaken to new ways of perceiving what has been before us for years. Gene Twaronite works sometimes in set forms (sestina, sonnets), but also in prose poems and found poems and mostly in free verse. For him, the poet’s task is to watch and listen, taste and touch, until words reveal their identities. At times, those identities are ekphrastic: Edward Hopper and Thomas Moran are decisive. At times, we meet the tenderness of a father’s love (“Yellow Fireworks”) or a stranger’s empathy (“Doppelganger”). At their best, Twaronite’s poems bring us face to face with the wounded and marginalized people we might pass by every day, making us alive to what lies beneath the surface. Listen closely, reader, to those poems that turn on the moments when there is “nothing to fear / but the failure / to see the pain / of all things” (“Surprises”).”

—Richard Newhauser, Professor   
Department of English, Arizona State University

Available here:

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Birth of a Poem

One day, I sat in a dentist’s waiting room, hopeless staring at the blank page of my journal when out of the void words started to appear …

Here’s their story. Watch here

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The Stuff of Poetry

Many people tend to equate poetry with supposedly more important things like love, war, pestilence, racial injustice, environmental destruction, death and despair, to name a few. Yet poems can be literally about anything. In his poem “Evening,” Richard Aldington simply wrote about doing the dishes, Ezra Pound, in his poem “In a Station of the Metro,” focuses on the faces of commuters in the Paris Metro. In her book Tender Buttons, Gertrude Stein wrote a series of prose poems about everyday objects, food, and rooms. And of course there’s Wordsworth and his daffodils. But while the poem may start out with the mundane, how the poet chooses to deal with it makes all the difference.

Here is my take on this subject, from my collection The Museum of Unwearable Shoes, which you can view in this new video

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Plea for an Imaginary Amphibian

A line from a poem or story can often inspire a poem. In this case, it was a line from the poet W.S. Merwin, which got me thinking on what is real and what is not. As is often the case, this led me to another line from the poem “Poetry” by Marianne Moore: “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Wait a second. How can an imaginary garden have real toads? Wouldn’t the toad also be imaginary? But what Moore was trying to say, I think, is that good poetry uses imagination to create a world that can seem just as real to us as physical reality. And good fiction does the same. I know that Middle Earth is not real, but it will always be a place I carry within me. Anyway, here is my new poem for the New Year. May your coming year by filled with imagination and wonder.

(Note: I’m not a big fan of intrusive Subscribe buttons or popups. Please use the contact page to enter your name and email address to receive occasional posts.)

Plea for an Imaginary Amphibian

“but nothing is real/until it can be sold”
W.S. Merwin, “”Journey”

What is the price of the Milky Way?
Think of a number.
Any day now black holes
will be sold like donuts
and dark matter
the ultimate investment opportunity.

Just imagine an alternate universe
that could be yours.
Everything is on the table,
even the things we thought were

But can we not keep some creatures
from this marketplace?
Let us keep at least our
imaginary friends and toads.

First published in NewMyths


Better to Own a House

I was going over some older poems of mine for my reading tomorrow here in Tucson, and in light of today’s disturbing Supreme Court ruling I thought I’d post this poem. It cannot be said enough. Women’s reproductive rights are human rights. And none of us are truly free when women are forced to give birth.

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Working on My Signature

An author signs a book
to affirm the life within.
Written in subconscious code,
it is the soul’s imprimatur.

Note the perfectly formed letters
in Virginia Woolf’s signature, wholly legible
as if meant to show a balanced soul
never at war with itself.

What complexities lurk in the signature
of Edgar Allan Poe, who adorned his letters
with loops and dots, underlined beneath
like a swirling maelstrom.

But why write the whole thing out?
E.E. Cummings, ever the nonconformist,
signed with just his initials,
this time capitalized.

Emily Dickinson used only her first name,
her misshapen letters spaced wide apart,
the ending “y” snaking beneath like a lake of solitude.
Pity she never got to autograph her book.

See how Billy Collins simplifies,
snipping out unnecessary letters,
opening his “B” with a short vertical line
and a drunken sideways “3”

followed by more vertical lines
and occasional dots, the rest
a wave breaking gently
on a welcoming shore.   

So I’m working on my signature,
writing in code a squiggly line
I hope will give me
its blessing.

First published in Tipton Poetry Journal #52 – Spring 2022

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The Dilettante

I was just going through some of my earlier poems and discovered this one, from my first published collection Trash Picker on Mars.* It reminds me of my early days as a writer when in my rush to fill the page with words I did not always take the time to find exactly the right ones. Like many young writers, I was more in love with the idea of being a writer than the writing itself.

*You can read more about this book and others on my book page.

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Detroit Poetry Reading

I’ve been invited to do a virtual reading of my poetry by the  Unitarian Universalist Church in Detroit. For their monthly program, the group selects from a wide range of poets from across the country. The event is on Thursday, May 26, at 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, which for you folks on Arizona Time is 4 p.m.. I will be sharing poems from my new book Shopping Cart Dreams as well as from my previous collections along with two short pre-recorded musical pieces which I’ve been asked to provide. The general public is invited to attend, and no other business will be conducted during this special event, which will run for 40-45 minutes. Hope you can drop by. Here’s the Zoom link. Thanks for reading this.

 Phone 312-626-6799

Meeting ID: 999 7985 2182,

Passcode: 178251

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